Fannie Lou Hamer (1917-1977)
Peace to Ms Hamer and all the Black, Native American and Latin Woman who were subjected to forced sterilization.
MS Fannie Lou Hamer was a Wife, Daughter, Black Activist, A major figure in the civil rights movement and…a victim.
Back in 1961 Fannie Lou was diagnosed with a small uterine tumor. She checked into the Sunflower City Hospital to have it removed. Without her knowledge or consent, without any indication of medical necessity, the operating physician took the liberty of performing a complete hysterectomy.
Three years later, as a leader of the Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party, Ms. Hamer spoke about her experience to an audience in Washington D.C. – telling them that she was one of many black women in her area that had been a victim of a “Mississippi appendectomy” (an unwanted, unrequested and unwarranted hysterectomy given to poor and unsuspecting Black women). According to research, 60% of the black women in Sunflower County, Mississippi were subjected to postpartum sterilizations at Sunflower City Hospital without their permission.
A number of physicians who examined these women after the procedure was performed confirm that the practice of sterilizing Southern Black women through trickery or deceit was widespread.
But it does not end there. The forced sterilization of black women got its start during slavery, but has persisted in less overt forms in recent years. A 1991 experiment that implanted the now-defunct birth control device Norplant into African American teenagers in Baltimore was applauded by some observers as a way to “reduce the underclass.”
Dr. Lester Hibbard of L.A. County Hospital admits in 1972 that vaginal tubal ligations were sometimes selected over abdominal tubal ligations because of their “instructional value,” even though the vaginal procedure often led to serious complications.
According to the acting director of a municipal hospital in New York City in 1975, “In most major teaching hospitals in New York City, it is the unwritten policy to do elective hysterectomies on poor, Black, and Puerto Rican women with minimal indications, to train residents … at least 10% of gynecological surgery in New York is done on this basis. And 99% of this is done on Blacks and Puerto Rican women.”
During the late 1960s and the early 1970s, a policy of involuntary surgical sterilization was imposed upon Native American women in the United States, usually without their knowledge or consent, by the federally funded Indian Health Service (IHS), then run by the Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA). It is alleged that the existence of the sterilization program was discovered by members of the American Indian Movement (AIM) during its occupation of the BIA headquarters in 1972. A 1974 study by Women of All Red Nations (WARN), concluded that as many as 42 percent of all American Indian women of childbearing age had, by that point, been sterilized without their consent.
A subsequent investigation was conducted by the U.S. General Accounting Office (GAO), though it was restricted to only four of the many IHS facilities nationwide and examined only the years 1973 to 1976. The GAO study showed that 3,406 involuntary sterilizations were performed in these four IHS hospitals during this three-year period. Consequently, the IHS was transferred to the Department of Health and Human Services in 1978.
by Serena Sebring
Forced sterilization of BLACK, NATIVE AMERICAN, AND PUERTO RICAN women. Yet another affirmation of why it is important for minorities to unite and fight for one another.